Jeremy McGrath was a great Supercross champion … turns out the greatest ever. Yet, his success on the track worked against him when it came to my fan support (yes, I was a big Supercross fan … attending every Anaheim and San Diego round every year). Something about me wants to root for the underdog.
As a roadracing fan, I’ve had my issues with Valentino Rossi over the years. Imperious, at times, and fairly obvious at his engagement in “mind games”, maybe it was his winning that caused me, more than anything else, to root for his opponents. For several years McGrath made Supercross main events boring. Although Rossi never dominated roadracing in quite the same way, I found myself cheering on the underdogs, nonetheless.
I have written about, and opined on, Valentino Rossi many, many times over the years. I compared the results Rossi obtained during his two years at Ducati with his then-teammate Nicky Hayden and concluded that both riders were equally successful/unsuccessful … essentially a wash. I thought his glory days were over, and that he would never threaten to win a championship again, and would struggle to win races. After he returned to Yamaha, I publicly ate crow when I wrote the article “Rossi Proved Me Wrong”. There is a difference, however, between acknowledging a rider’s merit and being a fan of that rider.
Sure, I have to objectively report race results and acknowledge good performances and poor performances when I see them, but I am human just like every other fan or moto-journalist. After what Rossi did last weekend at Jerez, I have been drug (perhaps, kicking and screaming) into the fan category. Trust me, dragging elbows was not something you saw when Rossi began racing more than two decades ago. The man has not only survived through dramatically differing eras of racing and technology, he is still thriving.
To see Rossi dominate Jerez at 37 against two of the greatest “elbow draggers” in history, both still in their 20s, was not just inspiring, it was awe inspiring. Rossi has re-invented himself more than once, but never more convincingly than he has since the remarkable Marc Marquez moved up to MotoGP a few years ago. Apparently Rossi never believed the axiom “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” All I can say is Bravo!
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